John Bowes, 1st Baron Bowes

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Bust of John Bowes in the crypt of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, by John van Nost the younger.

John Bowes, 1st Baron Bowes PC (I) (1691 – 22 July 1767) was an Anglo-Irish peer, politician and judge. He was noted for his great legal ability, but also for his implacable hostility to Roman Catholics.


He was born in London, son of Thomas Bowes, a merchant, and was called to the Bar in 1712, he came to Ireland as a member of the staff of Richard West, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, in 1723. He built up a large practice at the Irish Bar; was appointed Solicitor-General for Ireland in 1730, and Attorney-General in 1739, he was raised to the Bench as Lord Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer in 1741.[1] He was appointed Lord Chancellor of Ireland by King George II in 1757.

John Bowes epitomized the severity of the 18th century Penal Laws against Irish Catholics when he ruled that: “The law does not suppose any such person to exist as an Irish Roman Catholic, nor could such a person draw breath without the Crown's permission." Such views, given that Roman Catholics made up more than 90% of the Irish population, inevitably made him bitterly unpopular, and in 1760 he was attacked during a riot outside the House of Commons. In spite of his religious bigotry he was considered one of the outstanding judges of his time.

Between 1731 and 1742, he represented Taghmon in the Irish House of Commons.

He was considered one of the finest speakers of his time; his speech for the prosecution at the trial of Lord Santry, charged with murder in 1739, was described by those who heard it as a masterpiece of eloquence and logic, and led to the Irish House of Lords bringing in a unanimous verdict of guilty against Santry.

He was raised to the peerage of Ireland in 1758 as Baron Bowes, of Clonlyon in the County of Meath.[2]

He died in Dublin on 22 July 1767, and was buried in Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin, he never married, and his title became extinct on his death.


  1. ^ Ball, F. Elrington. The Judges in Ireland John Murray London. 1926
  2. ^ "No. 9813". The London Gazette. 29 July 1758. p. 2.
Parliament of Ireland
Preceded by
Richard Saunders
William Hore
Member of Parliament for Taghmon
With: William Hore
Succeeded by
Charles Gardiner
William Hore
Legal offices
Preceded by
Robert Jocelyn
Solicitor-General for Ireland
Succeeded by
St George Caulfeild
Preceded by
Robert Jocelyn
Attorney-General for Ireland
Succeeded by
St George Caulfeild
Preceded by
Thomas Marlay
Lord Chief Baron of the Irish Exchequer
Succeeded by
Edward Willes
Preceded by
The Viscount Jocelyn
Lord Chancellor of Ireland
Succeeded by
James Hewitt
Peerage of Ireland
New creation Baron Bowes